Reader Request Week 2010 #6: Depression

Womyn2me asks:

Have you ever been depressed or introspective in a way that was harmful to your relationships or way of life? What did you do to find your way out of it? Do you think people would be surprised or motivated by the depths that you have experienced and come out of?

I’ve been what I would consider profoundly depressed twice in my life. One of these times I’ve discussed here before, including the steps I (or more accurately, we) took to get out of that state, and rather than rehash that one I’ll just commend that link there to you; the piece is worth reading if you haven’t already.

The other time was when I was a teenager and I had had an overwhelming crush on a girl (like, for years) and all the drama of that came to a head in the summer between our senior year and the first year of college. I won’t go into detail about that particular event right now, but I will say looking back that it was probably the one time in my life where I believe that I truly would have benefited from psychological and/or pharmaceutical intervention. I wasn’t suicidal — never have been — nor was I violent, but I was pretty much everything else. Lacking outside therapeutic intervention, I just eventually got over it and moved on. It probably took longer than it should have.

Beyond those two times I don’t think there have been times where I have been depressed to such a great extent that it had a substantive effect on my life, although I also note that I am perhaps not the best judge of that, and maybe others would tell you differently. What I can say is that at no other time have I felt paralyzed by depression to such a degree that I was aware that there was something genuinely wrong with me, and that my state bordered on illness.

Beyond that, well. I certainly get into moods, and always have. The way that I tend to describe it to people is that I have a wide dynamic range to my emotional spectrum. In my particular line of work it can be useful; it has the potential to make you particularly empathetic, which writer should be. But the flip side is that the volume knob on your emotions is twisted all the way over, and this can be problematic. This was something I think was especially noticeable when I was younger, and had less emotional control of myself. If you speak to anyone who knew me as a kid or a teen, most of them can tell you stories of me being far more wound up about things than I should have been.

As an adult, I still have that emotional range but I’m also rather better at dealing with it, a thing which is part of that process we commonly call “being an adult.” Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that, because I’m aware I have that sort of emotional range, I also pay attention to when it starts skewing to an extreme, and work to deal with it before other people have to. I think I’m generally successful with this, although again I’m not necessarily the right person to ask.

Having said all the above, I’m aware that some folks out there will now be taking their pencils and plotting out where on the bipolar spectrum I lie (“He’s totally cyclothymic!”). It doesn’t help that I’m a writer, a class of human more showily prone to bipolar disorders than other professions. I’m not going to discourage your fun, or even deny that it’s possible that I could be on that spectrum somewhere because hey, it’s not impossible (although I suspect if I am, it’s something sub-threshold-y). But I’ll note that it is also possible to have a wide range of emotional states, and even occasional bouts of depression, without an underlying mood disorder. I know, I know. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. Even so.

These days, I don’t have much cause to be depressed — my personal relationships are good, my home life is groovy, my career is chugging along, we’re all healthy and have money in the bank — so I’m generally not. The thing that is most likely to make me depressed these days is work, and the (lack of) progress therein. This is especially the case at the start of a new project, when I occasionally have to kick my own ass to get started on it and then kick my ass to keep at it. I get agitated getting myself back in gear. This is one very significant reason that last year I basically rebuilt my book writing process, so that instead of writing, say, 8,000 words in one gout and then spending a week not writing, thus making it more difficult to start up again later, I switched to writing some significant amount every work day. It made a difference in my mood, and as far as I can tell it didn’t hurt the writing any; The God Engines, for example, was written this way, and people seem to think that works pretty well.

Oddly enough, writing poorly doesn’t (generally) depress me. A couple of years ago I was writing the sequel to The Android’s Dream, and it wasn’t going very well — what I was writing just wasn’t working, for values of working meaning “Something I would want to read myself.” Eventually I realized I was going to have to scrap it and start again some other time, and that this was better than trying to keep polishing the turd I currently writing. This pissed me off — I had lost time and blew a deadline — but looking at it analytically rather than emotionally meant I didn’t get that “oh, shit, what do I now?” thing that writers sometimes get, followed by panic, followed by depression. Basically, remembering that writing is (also) a business, and looking at it dispassionately from that perspective, has been a really good regulator of my mood. I don’t suspect this is all that surprising.

One thing I would like to note here is I am a very big believer in people, when they are depressed, finding help for it. Whether it’s an isolated incident or indicative of an continual underlying problem, there are ways to deal with it. Deal with it. I noted above there was at least one incident in my life where my depression was profound enough that I should have gotten help for it; if it weren’t for Krissy being a heatsink for me that other time, there would have been two. Let my own stupidity be a cautionary lesson.

40 thoughts on “Reader Request Week 2010 #6: Depression

  1. Oof! Been there, got the t-shirt. That year just after high school, with first real girl friend/heart ache. Man, that can throw you around the bend.

    One cool thing about getting older (42 now); it seems like life has installed shock absorbers. Sure, I still feel extreme emotions but, like being intoxicated, am better able to handle the rides.

    I guess there’s also a point (was around age 29 for me) where I decided it was ok to be content with the good things of life and not let the stuff I didn’t like (no girl friend, pissy job, etc.) mean my life totally sucked. Learning to take joy in the small things in life (a good meal, a funny joke, a nice cup of tea or coffee) really helps balance out the boss dumping more work on you, the car breaking down, etc. Having a dog or a cat around also helps.

  2. I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and have been especially enjoying the Reader Request Week entries such that I decided to leave my first comment.

    I feel like I could have written today’s entry, having experienced only two times in my life that might be considered “depression,” one related to an unexpected job loss and another in connection to pining away for a girl.

    Great writing, wonderful blog… keep going!

  3. “One thing I would like to note here is I am a very big believer in people, when they are depressed, finding help for it. ”

    What sucks is even when a person can identify that they themselves are depressed, it’s very difficult to take the step to ask for help. It’s as if you are admitting that you are not in control of your own mind. I imagine it especially so for men.

    When I get depressed, which I used to be more often when I was younger, I tend to wait it out to see if the situation that is making me depressed changes on its own.

    But, like you say, it would probably, no definitely, be more wise to seek help and make the process much shorter.

    At the moment I am extremely depressed and I do know the source of that depression. Dealing with it is not easy as it entails cutting someone out of my life and really I don’t think anyone else can help me do that but myself. I feel weak. Fortunately I have some very close, strong friends who are/will be there for me when that time comes.

    It won’t be an easy task and if done incorrectly, harshly or without major concessions on my part it could end very badly. It’s just that I have to decide what is more important to me and realize what will be waiting for me after it is done.

    I just don’t know…..

  4. John, not getting help for depression is unfortunate, not ‘stupid’. There are a range of problems and obstacles between a depressed person and getting help, including societal disapproval of mental illness, not realizing you have a problem that can be improved, being too depressed to be able to seek help, and seeking help and being denied.

    There’s a very comprehensive rundown on the problems with getting help at Naamah Darling’s Livejournal.

    I take strong issue with this because I’m bipolar (diagnosed and medicated) myself, and it took a very long time for me to get that help for more than half of the reasons on that list, not because I was ‘stupid’. I don’t think that you not seeking help when you were young was because you were stupid, either.

  5. Interesting. My friend, writer Erica Orloff, on her blog today was mentioning struggling with health issues and how she refuses to let them defeat her. We and several others got into a discussion about how crises can lead you to making major positive changes, and that sometimes you need some sort of crisis to jolt you out of your rut. I linked back to your previous post, because it was so apropos.

    http://ericaorloff.blogspot.com/

  6. Renatus:

    “I don’t think that you not seeking help when you were young was because you were stupid, either.”

    I agree that there are many reasons people don’t seek help when they should, and that is indeed a problem. However, in the particular case under discussion, I am me, and I was there, and I’m in the position to say it was in fact at least partly stupidity.

  7. Thanks, John. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it now, Krissy is both wise and hot. I am glad you have each other.

  8. Depression. Ugggh. That struggle has gone on for decades. How much of it was due to the side effects of the epilepsy drugs, how much of it due to mis-diagnosed ADHD (that is, that I did not have ADHD), and how much just my own personality … unanswerable questions. The treatments and the drugs helped, eventually, my wonderful wife helped more. There’s a black hole, over there, beckoning, if I think about the costs, so I’ll thank you for adding to the information that recovery is possible, think about other things, and wish you joy.

  9. When I got laid off the first time in my life, it was a major downer and I spent some time really wondering if I was a loser or not. I was in my early 20′s, newly married and feeling the pressure to be the “bread winner.”

    The other time I got laid off, in 2005, I was able to deal with it more calmly, looking at it as an oppourtunity instead of a catastrophe. I went back to school, picked up another AS degree and got a national certification that led to my current job which is fabulous.

    Maturity and the help of my wife of now almost 30 years made a huge difference in my emotional state. I daresay that without the calming infuence and support of my wife, I would be an emotional basketcase most of the time. It’s good to be in love with your best friend and have that best friend be a non-judgemental sounding board at any time day or night.

    No wonder I’m always smiling.

  10. [N]ot getting help for depression is unfortunate, not ’stupid’.

    There is always a tension between public health messaging and what is appropriate to say to someone who is actually confronting a problem. By way of example, a year or so ago there was an appalling domestic violence incident between two pop singers who were a couple. I had no problem with people saying, “If she stays with that guy, she’s an idiot.” That’s a clear message that people need to hear. That is a million miles away from the tone I would use if that woman were in my office.

    It would be good if we sent a clear message that taking care of your business as an adult meant getting help for depression or mental illness when you need it, even if we occasionally had to say things like, “Don’t be stupid.”

  11. John: Fair enough.

    Alkali:

    I had no problem with people saying, “If she stays with that guy, she’s an idiot.”That’s a clear message that people need to hear.

    I’ve been in an abusive relationship; people telling me (or saying where I could hear) that I was stupid for still being with him would have added to my shame and feeling that I deserved the abuse. It would not have spurred me on to getting out.

    Would you mind unpacking how you think that’s supposed to work, both with victims of abusive relationships and with mental illness?

    It would be good if we sent a clear message that taking care of your business as an adult meant getting help for depression or mental illness when you need it

    And that would be a hell of a lot easier if people with mental illnesses were not shamed and othered. Shaming and othering is what you do when you imply that people with mental illnesses are childish and stupid for not getting help.

  12. John@0:”One thing I would like to note here is I am a very big believer in people, when they are depressed, finding help for it.”

    I won’t argue with you there. But how do you know if what you’re experiencing is depression? Are there warning signs? Is there a “you might be depressed if…” calendar?

    I ask because I’ve known several people who eventually sought and received help for depression, who said they wished they’d known sooner that what they had was treatable and not just a spell of “the blues.”

  13. Also, in the US, establishing a medical record for anything that might indicate an ongoing chronic condition can bite you badly when dealing with health insurance. (I’ve heard of more than one case where folks have hit major roadblocks getting coverage after they’d once decided to go in for counseling.)

    It’s one more factor that gets some folks to avoid dealing with problems until they can no longer deny they’re “sub-threshold”.

    I’m hoping that health care reform, and its measures against pre-existing conditions and rescission, can lessen this as a problem.

  14. I have depression. I’ve had it all my life. As far as I know, I will die with it. That is to say, I don’t know if there is a cure for the mental illness version of depression.

    Oops, I forgot, there are two kinds of depression. The normal kind, like the kind you get when you loose your, spouse, job, house, etc. is actually normal, maybe even healthy. Most people get this at one point in their lives, and generally get over it. Sometimes quickly, sometimes not, depending upon the person, and their circumstances. The other kind, the mental illness kind, means you get depressed over things that most people do not normally get depressed about. Walking home from school, ending a long day of work, leaving an emotionally powerful movie, etc.

    If you want to know what the mental illness kind of depression is like, then follow this link. It’s a post I did last year on my blog. http://pixelectomy.com/?p=130

    I am lucky in that my form of depression is fairly mild. When I crash, I just roll up into a ball of shit. I don’t get suicidal, or rage or many other things people with mental illnesses do. I am also lucky that I found a therapist in my early 30s. Without a doubt, the best thing I ever did in my life. I went for only 1.5 years, and I do not take any medication. For mild cases it is possible to go without. I went for a short time because I demanded it of myself, and my therapist. We worked on ways to help me sense when depression was coming on, and developed ways to minimize it’s effects.

    For instance, reading is my primary anti-depression medication. I never go anywhere without a book. People think it’s because I love to read, which I do, but nothing resets my depression point to zero better than a book.

    If you are depressed (don’t know, there must be 100 definitions on the web) then seek out a therapist. Even if you have the short term “normal” kind of depression. A good therapist will help you know what is normal, and what is not, and will help you over the hump. It is worth every penny.

    If you are looking for a therapist, remember you are auditioning for the role of your best friend. You should always feel they are in your corner, you should be able to trust them explicitly (like a spouse, they will have lots of influence over your life, so be on your toes), and they need to be able to tell you when you are being an ass (this goes double if you are smart. Smart people can do a snow job of most therapists. This does you NO GOOD AT ALL). If you can’t get all three, then find another one.

    I am 47, wildly successful in my profession, happily married, and have a wonderful son. All of this would not have come to pass if I hadn’t gone to a great therapist. It was such the best experience. I cannot tell you how helpful it has been for me. Not a day goes by that I don’t use the tools I developed with my therapist (thank you Nancy).

  15. I’m sorry, I know you mentioned the best way to bring up typos, but my memory is poor at best and now I’m not sure what you prefer. That said,

    8,000 words in one gout

    is probably a typo, I think.

  16. This mental health professional, for one, wouldn’t have diagnosed you with any disorder if you had come in and described yourself as above (as you say, getting the feedback of others is also important.)

    And then there is depression, and there is depression. I think that just about any human alive has experienced at least some of the symptoms of depression, but one of the most overlooked symptom (and one of the most important, in my book) is that the rest of the symptoms need to be impairing your ability to function in daily life.

    That being said, only you can say if your symptoms were impacting your daily functioning. If they were, you were indeed probably clincally depressed. However, I wouldn’t call you decision to not seek professional help “stupid” for a number of reason.

    First, denial (yeah, yeah, I know not just a river…) of the problem is actually symptomatic of the problem for a lot of people. Which leads me to…

    Second, regardless of what people would like to think, there is still a huge stigma against mental illness of any kind (even the “common cold” of mental illness) that causes many people to deny the severity of their symptoms or their need for treatment. And sadly, the denial of the need for treatment is actually a symptom for a lot of disorders.

    Finally, in this sort of area more than any other, there is the fact that you have to actually believe that the person that you have chosen to help you can do so. In your case, it was those close to you… and they, along with your biology and innate coping strategies, appear to have done the job. For many who do seek help, though, they don’t immediately connect with the right person, and so they don’t follow therapy through, thinking all the while that there was something wrong with them rather than with their relationship with their therapist.

    You say that you would have never said something so straight-forward and harsh (my words) to someone who said that they were being “stupid”. In fact, that’s the sort of language that some people respond to. Not everyone does well with touchy-feely. Often people feel that they have “failed” in therapy because they just haven’t found a therapist that they connect with. There is a lot of research that supports that it is not the therapy modality used by the therapist that is most effective with clients, but the degree to which clients feel that they have a genuinely helpful relationship with the therapist, that provides the most positive results.

    I urge anyone considering therapy to consider that. A therapist may challenge you and make you uncomfortable (necessary for change), but they should not make you feel small, hopeless, helpless, or…well, stupid.

    I appreciate you shining such a clear and real-world light on the issue.

  17. As a person with the illness version of Depression, I read this specific article by Mr. Scalzi with great attention and interest. I am glad to know that he does not suffer the illness, even if he does suffer “a wide dynamic range to (his) emotional spectrum”.

    I think a lot of the “stigma” that is attached to the illness of Depression is that the two difference concepts are using the same word. Depression from losing a job, losing a loved one, etc., is a different thing from the illness of Depression. EVERYONE who’s actually living a life outside of a bubble, is going to have incidents where they become depressed because of a negative outcome (being fired, etc.) And in fact, I would suggest that depression from losing a job, etc., can be more powerful. Certainly when I was dumped by a gal I was thinking might eventually become my wife, my mood was powerfully dropped to a despairing low. The thing is, the feeling is hard, tough, and SHORT. You “eventually” get over it, and move on. Some times some people can’t take it and they commit suicide, and we read about them and connect “they lost their job and were depressed” as the reason, and (hopefully) feel a level of understanding and compassion for those…

    People with the illness of Depression, however, are under a different sort of situation. Speaking personally as a sufferer, I can say that there’s a constant low feeling of unhappiness, of wanting things to be different, of tiredness and lackluster energy, a constant feeling of things being the same day after day, anxiety, and yes, occasionally bouts of where things are just so bad you’re very unhappy and maybe thinking of ending things. And this entire situation is one that does NOT go away with time. I personally have been this way for 10 years. This type of Depression LEADS to being fired, losing friends, etc., and are not CAUSED by being fired, etc. And if the person eventually kills themselves, people tend to go “wait, did he just lose his job, did he just lose a wife?” and when the answer is no, are not able to attach the same level of compassion as the above example. They just simply don’t understand that depression is not Depression, and that they have NOT experienced it. And thus is born the stigma, caused by a lack of understanding, where the person thinks they understand but doesn’t.

    I hope this is helpful and clarifying. And I am glad Mr. Scalzi is doing fine, and (hopefully!) will eventually write a sequel to “The Android’s Dream” that isn’t a “polished turd”. I know I anxiously await his newest. Keep up the good work, Mr. Scalzi!

  18. John, as a teenager myself, I appreciated you including your post-high school depression over a girl in your list of real depression. I’ve had some periods of depression myself, some involving guys, and I like that you seem (from my point of view, at least) to consider this as real depression. A lot of adults assume that it’s just teenage hormones or us being melodramatic and ignore the fact that sometimes teenagers really have problems other than our universally-accepted need for attention. Of course, some teenage drama really isn’t that big a deal when you look back on it, but some of it is, and now I feel like maybe I wasn’t overreacting as much as I thought I was at the time. One of the things that stopped me from talking to anyone was the feeling that I was making a big deal out of nothing and other people really didn’t want to listen to me whine about my life. So, what I’m trying to say, in a rather roundabout way, is thanks.

  19. Dave H @ 12
    Here’s a link to a depression scale, the Major Depression Inventory (MDI), though of course I would recommend that anyone who is concerned they have depression talk to a medical professional and avoid relying purely on self-diagnosis.

    http://www.who-5.org/

  20. Thanks so much for posting this. Depression is sometimes the elephant in the room, and it’s heartening for people to see that even their heroes have struggled through it somehow.

    WRT the comments thread, I don’t think comparisons between ‘real’ depression and the sort triggered by difficult life circumstances should be made. One can easily lead to the other, and _both_ types are absolute hell to deal with for anybody. Everyone should have sympathy, and everyone should try and get help (or get someone to help them get help – I know it’s a nightmare) if they need it.

    My husband is suicidal a lot of the time, and has been for quite a few years now, but I wouldn’t begrudge anyone who tells me they’re really depressed, even if I know it probably isn’t as bad as he has it. Everyone deserves attention and sympathy, there isn’t a cut-off for specialness, and sometimes help in the early stages can stop it from becoming something worse.

  21. I had no problem with people saying, “If she stays with that guy, she’s an idiot.” That’s a clear message that people need to hear. That is a million miles away from the tone I would use if that woman were in my office.

    Why would you use a different tone? If she’s in your office that’s not the clear message “people” need to hear? Or is it that people apparently need to hear the message that if a woman is beaten by her SO, we ought to judge and weigh her behavior and intelligence, while ignoring him?

    Emmy @18, that’s such an important point. The fact that you won’t feel the same way when you’re 40 or has nothing to do with how you feel now. It’s easy for adults to forget that we may handle certain things better because we’ve already been through them and learned both how to cope and that we will, in fact, get through them.

  22. I really enjoyed reading about how you coped with the two depressions in your life. Both posts were an uplifting read. Then I started to skim the comments. And now I’m totally depressed.

  23. Depression is such an ill-defined term. Of course you felt like shit when you were laid off – it completely turned your life upside down. It was a normal reaction to a situation. This get labeled “depression”, but it’s very different from the mental illness of depression. My worst point of depression came when everything was going well; there was no apparent reason for why everything was gray, I couldn’t sleep, I lost 35 lbs because I had no appetite, and I didn’t see any point in living anymore. When you feel like you’re moving through quicksand, it’s hard to get help, but fortunately, I did, and with therapy and meds, I manage my depression now. Scary as hell, though, because depression skews my perceptions, so when I start down that spiral, I can’t trust my feelings.

  24. I’ll raise my hand as being among the clinically depressed. Mine (seemingly) stemmed from a reaction to anesthesia during surgery, although I’m certain I had, shall we say, a wide and dynamic emotional range long before that. But, chemistry apparently played havoc with my brain, and it changed me forever. So it goes. I lost a few years, but now I’m off meds and equipped (via professional help) to deal. It’s still a mystery why and how it happens, but it seems my brain has made at least a partial recovery. I know that for a very long period, it rendered me almost incapable of living, and certainly made it difficult to live in any way “normally” (at least as I knew normality). Getting help was incredibly difficult because the very organ I used to perceive, understand, and solve problems was the one affected. It’s a little like trying to turn a doorknob with a paralyzed hand.

    All that said, I just finished reading a very fascinating book called “The Midnight Disease” (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Midnight-Disease/Alice-Weaver-Flaherty/e/9780618485413/?itm=1&USRI=The+Midnight+Disease) that explores the relationships between writing, mental states, and mental illness. The author gives (among other things) a very interesting look into the nature of writer’s block and how depression affects writers and writing. I bought my own copy so I can read it a second time with a highlighter and a notebook — it’s just that full of stuff worth thinking about.

  25. I didn’t really know I was clinically depressed until everything was going great – I could see this in a clear set of objective, concrete ways – and I was still miserable most of the time.

    Once I recognized that it was much easier to go see my doctor and get help! But in many situations there’s so much generally bad crap going on it’s hard to tell whether you’re doing all right or not.

    I think we may be surprised to learn how many of our 32 million newly-health-insured Americans immediately start going after mental health treatment that they’ve been denied for lack of insurance…

  26. This is tough topic. In my teen years, I experienced profound clinical depression, to the point of hospitalization for suicide gesture. These days, even with the cancer, the worst I get is transient, situational depression, but that is after many years of therapy and building social/coping tools and consciously remodeling my internal landscape.

    Depression can beaten, not just lived with.

  27. It’s far easier being happy, finding happiness, when you have 40,000-plus souls peeking into your life every day, shedding love and affection like rainbow-colored cat hairs all over Whatever. Me? I had but ONE soul peeking into my life, and his name was Oscar-food. He has been floating about in the fishbowl next to my Mac for the past couple of days. I don’t think he appreciated my Oscar screensaver. Do goldfish have weak hearts? Anyway, I’m going to miss his signature watermarks on my manuscripts.

  28. @Jay Lake,
    I agree with you to a large part. My clinical depression is kept at bay, and as a general rule does not effect my quality of life. However, that is only because I have learned to live with it, very much like a diabetic can have a normal life by carefully controlling their diet and exercise.

    If I were to ignore the symptoms, I could eventually be overwhelmed again. The odds of that happening are pretty remote because dealing with depression is now in integral part of my worldview. For day to day things it’s not even an issue any more, I have that bastard locked up tight, but when I work to the point of exhaustion, or if I were to go though something emotional extreme, like a divorce (God forbid), then I’d have to really be on my toes.

    I don’t think I will ever have another breakdown. I have learned, because of having depression, or more accurately because of how I chose to respond to depression, to act like an adult when it comes to living my life. Seeing a therapist, learning to live with my depression, is smack dab in the middle of the time I learned to grow up; to stop acting like a child and start acting like an adult. It is literally the hinge upon which my adult life turned, for the better I might add.

    I have a nephew who is turning 16 this summer, and who has clinical depression. His openness; his willingness to discuss his mental illness, and opinions be damned; all in the service of helping others afflicted with mental illness, has been very inspirational to me. He not only was exposed to therapy early, but “got” it before puberty. He is so awesome at 16 that I can’t wait to see where he ends up at 30, and 40. He is also a walking talking advertisement for the virtues of talk and drug therapies.

    I don’t know if his experience more closely mirrors yours than mine, but I find it makes me very hopeful about the future.

    btw: I’m a big fan of your work. Every novel is scrumptious and tasty, like opening up a box of sublime and delicious chocolates. Yum.

  29. I’ve had situational depression a number of times, to the point that I recognize how it works–most of the time, I go into a funk for about a month, then I start to recognize what triggered it and deal with it. (Usually I’m angry with someone I don’t think I have the right to be angry with.) (Life crises, like my brother’s death, are a different breed of depression.)

    Then a couple of years ago I was off the scale on anxiety and took a drug for it that triggered intense suicidal depression. When I took another drug (Ritalin, which I was also on) that the doc thought might counteract the anxiety med, the depression was completely gone in half an hour. Turned out another med (too high a dose of thyroid) was causing the anxiety in the first place.

    I’m more and more convinced that we are our biochemistry. (I could go on about this a LONG time.)

  30. Biochemistry can be really critical in depression. I lost one sister to suicide and the other one says she’d be gone, too, without anti-depressants.

    I’m a moody type but the biochemical imbalance stuff is a whole other dimension. And one can be very slow to recognize what’s going on. Like El, I had a negative reaction to a prescription but explained it away in far fetched ways for days before finally associating it with the medication and being able to fix the problem.

  31. christy @ 17 said…

    For many who do seek help, though, they don’t immediately connect with the right person, and so they don’t follow therapy through, thinking all the while that there was something wrong with them rather than with their relationship with their therapist.

    I want to repeat this, because I think it’s so important. I went to several therapists, on and off, but it wasn’t until I found one that “clicked” that I was able to develop strategies, with her help, for controlling my depression.

    tolladay @ 33 said…

    My clinical depression is kept at bay, and as a general rule does not effect my quality of life. However, that is only because I have learned to live with it, very much like a diabetic can have a normal life by carefully controlling their diet and exercise.

    If I were to ignore the symptoms, I could eventually be overwhelmed again. The odds of that happening are pretty remote because dealing with depression is now in integral part of my worldview.

    The diabetes analogy is an excellent one. That’s been my experience as well.

  32. I’ll point out a paradoxical danger of modern anti-depressant drugs: they work. Clinically depressed patient, unable to do anything, takes pill, gets some relief and becomes somewhat functioning and then succeeds in committing suicide, which they couldn’t muster the energy to do before taking the pill. Watch out for this in friends, kids, lovers, … it’s not that the pill doesn’t work, it’s that it does!

  33. I have had low level depression and occasional bad days since my very early teens, if not before, but so far I had three bad bouts, all triggered by life changes. The first happened when changing schools at 11, the second when I started university and the third I got my masters degree with no clear job prospects in sight.

    I never had very much emotional support from friends and family, whose response mostly was “You’re smart, you’ll manage” and a complete denial of any problems or fears I might have. However, I had a coping strategy of having something, a beloved book series, comic book or TV show, to derive joy from in not so great times, something that served as a safe place. And in all three bad bouts of depression I had, my source of joy and happiness failed me at around the same time I had to deal with drastic life changes.

    In the first instant, I seem to have run on autopilot with hardly any internal life at all from about age 11 to 12 and a half, when I changed schools again. I still have less memories of those years than before and after and an abiding hatred of that school. In the second instant, I managed to pull myself out of my depression after about two months by writing and taking up filmmaking and finding a new safe thing to enjoy. As for the third, I’m still in that one and what helped me at 19 doesn’t seem to work this time.

  34. Cora @ 38
    Seek professional help. Really. It’s cheap (at least over the long haul), its beneficial to things other than depression (half of my therapy was essentially really good dating advice, which paid off handsomely), and it can also be lifesaving.

    Your experience fits mine very closely, just change a few of the years, and they’d be identical.

    The last big crash for me, the one that sent me into therapy, put me in a spot where I could not think up anything new. I could not create. This is a death sentence to a freelance artist; might as well cut off my right hand. I got lucky that I found someone right away, and they were able to help me out.

    If you’re in the LA area (a meca for screenwriters), and are close to the SF Valley, drop me an email. I know a great therapist.

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